It used to be that the phrase “milking it” carried a pretty negative connotation with it for me, for as kids we only used it about people we thought were taking advantage of some situation without earning the right to do so. People who were “milking it” were the human equivalent of leeches.

However I’ve recently found that the phrase is very useful when I turn it around to be about me and not someone else. Milk is good. Milk is healthy. And “milking it” has turned into a great personal practice, specifically in regard to my habits with getting the most out of information I suspect holds new learning for me.

If you are reading this, and you are one who reads blogs on a daily basis, I would guess you struggle with information overload. Knowing that you do, you very willingly sit at a computer screen which is going to add even more to what your poor brain is already struggling to process. It’s addicting, I know.

You get better and better at skimming, and yet even that skimming takes time, and there are too many instances where you’ve turned off for the evening and purposely NOT asked yourself, “What am I taking away from the last few hours sitting here?” because you know you won’t like the answer. Skimming isn’t very satisfying at all.

And to skim over something I should have paid better attention to? Something promising? Something which could have been a breakthrough if I’d taken the time to internalize it, and really know it in the whole it was intended to be? Well, the thought is just criminal. Worst than a whole barrel of leeches.

So instead, in an effort to respect my own time and use it well, to “Milk It” has become a new habit I have practiced lately with far better results. I can switch offline each evening now feeling pretty terrific if I have done this at least once during my day of information bombardment. My MILK IT self-talk goes like this:

M- Make house and sit for a while when something intrigues you as Milkable.
I- Inventory all the Info available to you right here, right now. Whole Milk.
L- Listen to yourself think about what it all can mean for you. Learn it.
K- Know something you didn’t know before. Grab hold of a take-away.

I- Ink a commitment to use your new knowing. Calendar an “I will” action.
T- Take that action the next day. If not then, the sooner the better.

This does take discipline and self-restraint. You need to be okay with reading less, realizing that as the adage goes, “Less IS more.” Hard in the beginning, but the secret is to make it to T and take that affirmative action. Soon, it is the action that gets addicting.

Starting this habit at a good time helps. Sacrilegious as it may sound to you, choosing “mark all read” in your RSS aggregator first helps too- a lot.

I printed my Milking It Mantra on a 4×6 index card over a month ago. I had declared Joyful Jubilant Learning the theme for my Ho‘ohana Community at Talking Story over the month of September, knowing I would have 27 very interesting guest authors contributing articles to our JJL ‘06 forum daily, articles which definitely could teach me something. I committed to starting my Milking It habit with their contribution each day, knowing the very compelling Learning theme of the forum would make it pretty easy.

Each day in September, I propped the index card up next to my keyboard as I read, and I opened up my Outlook calendar and a blank Word doc for my Inventory and Inking steps.

Wow. September was one of the most productive months in new learning I have had in a very, very long time. I had created this practice for me, and there was a huge bonus in collaborative learning I had not expected.

Whole milk is wonderfully nutricious as brain food, and I’m never going back to skim. After all, I don’t have to drink everything, just the healthy, satisfying stuff.

Want to try it? First, print your own index card. Then, here are some related posts to help you get in the mood for New Learning while Milking It:

Rosa Say is the author of Managing with Aloha, Bringing Hawaii’s Universal Values to the Art of Business and the Talking Story blog. She is the founder and head coach of Say Leadership Coaching, a company dedicated to bringing nobility to the working arts of management and leadership.For more of her ideas, click to her Thursday columns in the archives; you’ll find her index in the left column of www.ManagingWithAloha.com

Rosa’s Previous Thursday Column was: The Cost of Convenience.

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